Scarcity Mentality

How many good boxes are too many?

People in poverty often find themselves struggling with a scarcity mentality. When you are scraping by trying to provide the basic necessities of life, food, shelter, clothing, transportation, etc. you live with a scarcity mindset, it’s reality. Studies have shown that children in poverty are linked to behavioral and mental health issues arising from a scarcity mentality. 1.

A scarcity mentality can come through in a variety of ways. It could be the job you take because you are afraid you won’t find anything better. It could be buying unneeded groceries because you fear going hungry. There are a variety of things that can come from a scarcity mindset, hoarding, being overly frugal, always feeling as if you must clean your plate, making snap decisions because time is scarce, to name just a few. It is the pervasive feeling that keeps telling you, you will never have enough.

It can also happen in relationships. You date the guy, or girl, because you feel no one else will ever ask you out. Maybe, you say “yes” to the proposal because you’ve been single too long, and your mother is in your head saying “when will I get grandchildren.” You hang out with that friend that does and says “cringy” things because everyone else was busy. You find yourself operating from a place of scarcity. This mindset can go hand in hand with self esteem issues, depression and anxiety. Feeling that you are not enough, and will never be enough.

For me, I had to do the hard work of learning who I was, and what I needed versus reacting to that scarcity mindset. I had to really think about what was important to me and I had to shift my thinking to a mindset of abundance, and of gratitude.

Much like someone in Alcoholics Anonymous, I had to accept that God was in control. I also had to do a fearless moral inventory of my life (Step 4). I had to focus on what I do have in abundance, rather than what I feel I am lacking. I had to define what abundance meant to me. It can be different for everyone.

I had to remember that I am abundantly blessed with people who care about my well-being, that I am blessed to have a job, a home, a car, food and moderately good health. I have my faith, hope and love all around me. For all these things I am immensely grateful.

I remembered I am a fallible, broken, human who has the love of a God who loves me just as I am. I have to love myself as God sees me, not as I see me. Being mindful of that makes a huge difference for me. Journaling and writing helps me process my thoughts, and prayers.

I focus on this verse often:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Recognizing these patterns and changing your mindset is no easy feat. It may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional. What works for me may not be your path. Just know that it isn’t an overnight process or a quick fix. Sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. Keep at it. Just know, if you are struggling, you are worth the work. You are enough.

  1. Akee RKQ, Copeland WE, Keeler G, Angold A, Costello EJ. Parents’ incomes and children’s outcomes: a quasi-experiment. American economic journal Applied economics. 2010;2(1):86. doi:10.1257/app.2.1.86

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